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The perception may be that sources of funding from outside of Ireland are confined to blue chip multinationals doing jumbo deals. However, our experience is that industry sectors such as information technology (IT), life sciences and clinical trial startups are often able to access alternative sources of funding using their corporate networks, venture capital funders and other non-EU credit institutions.
Ireland has a high concentration of companies operating in these sectors and we are building an international reputation as a centre of excellence. For these companies it is not unusual for financing to be arranged on a cross-border basis.
Using the format of a series of frequently asked questions (of the sort often posed to us by non-Irish lenders and lawyers), the following is a general guide to the legal issues that need to be addressed in relation to secured lending transactions involving Irish companies and/or Irish assets.
Lender in this memo means a corporate or non-EU regulated credit institution which is lending, or intending to lend, money in Euro or any other currency to an Irish Obligor.
Irish Obligor in this memo means an Irish company registered under the Companies Acts 1963-2012 (Ireland) acting as borrower, security provider or guarantor in a secured lending transaction.
1. Are there any prohibitions (regulatory or otherwise) under Irish law on an Irish Obligor (i) borrowing from a Lender or (ii) being the guarantor/security provider in relation to the debts/obligations of another Irish company?
The provision of money by way of loan to an Irish company is not a regulated financial services activity in Ireland.
Irish companies have broad freedom to contract, subject only to Irish law and company law generally and its constitutional documents in particular.
Things to consider:
The company’s constitutional documents should be checked to ensure that it has the power to borrow/guarantee/create security.
Corporate benefit - there is a general requirement for Irish companies to derive benefit from transactions which they enter into. It is usually possible to show benefit if the Irish company is borrowing for its business activities and/or providing guarantees/security in relation to the debts/obligations of another group company.
An Irish company is prohibited from giving guarantees/security in relation to the debts/obligations of its directors or persons connected to its directors. There is an exemption from the general prohibition if the relevant debts/obligations are debts/obligations of another group company.
Irish company law contains a financial assistance prohibition. This means that an Irish company is prohibited from providing financial assistance (e.g. guarantees/security) to a person that is purchasing, or subscribing for, shares in that Irish company or its holding company. This prohibition often becomes relevant in acquisition finance transactions. The legislation provides for a validation procedure (referred to as the whitewash procedure) which permits otherwise prohibited financial assistance. The validation procedure is straightforward but the Irish courts require strict compliance with the legislation and it cannot be utilised retrospectively.
2. Can an Irish Obligor be the guarantor/security provider in relation to the debts/obligations of of a non-Irish company?
In general, yes, subject to the considerations set out above. And provided that:
The non-Irish company and the Irish company are members of the same group of companies.
No overriding regulatory restrictions on the provision of guarantees exist (e.g. some restrictions apply to insurance and other financial services companies operating in Ireland).
3.What documents would an Irish law firm need to review in order to prepare or review guarantee/security documentation?
In order to be in a position to prepare or review guarantee/security documentation, two main categories of documentation need to be available to Irish counsel.
Firstly, information on the Irish Obligor:
A list of relevant assets of the Irish Obligor and any copy title documents or evidence of ownership of assets.
Appropriate corporate authorisations.
A group structure chart.
Secondly, the main transaction documentation – the facility/loan agreement containing details of the agreed security requirements and documentary conditions precedent to be provided by the Irish Obligor (as borrower, guarantor or security provider).
4. What security documents need to be prepared in order for a Lender to take security from an Irish Obligor?
In general, it is possible to take fixed security over (some or all of) the Irish Obligor’s specific assets and floating security over (some or all of) the Irish Obligor’s assets not subject to fixed security.
This is commonly done using an Irish law all assets debenture. The debenture comprises fixed and floating charges over all of the assets and undertaking of the Irish Obligor and will usually state that it is intended to create fixed charges over all of the Irish Obligor’s present and future:
Plant and machinery/chattels
Shares, stocks and securities
Bank accounts/cash deposits
Intellectual property (IP)
The debenture will usually comprise a number of schedules where details of the specific assets to be subject to fixed security are set out.
The debenture will also usually contain a general floating charge over any of the assets and undertaking which are not subject to fixed security.
The debenture can also provide negative covenants which restrict the Irish Obligor from creating security in favour of any other party over particular assets the subject of the debenture.
5. Is it always necessary to take an all assets debenture from an Irish Obligor or is it possible to take standalone security in relation to specific assets?
It is possible to take standalone security over a single class of assets or one specific asset of an Irish Obligor rather than an all assets debenture. Such security can be fixed or floating depending on the requirements of the Lender and/or the trading practicalities of the Irish Obligor.
For instance, standalone fixed security can be taken over specific IP held by an Irish Obligor, or shares/securities which it holds in other entities or over its book debts/receivables.
We discuss standalone security in further at questions 9 to 13 below.
6. What is required to ensure that the Lender’s security remains enforceable in the event of the borrower’s bankruptcy/insolvency?
Arguably, the single most important step in relation to all security entered into by an Irish Obligor is the registration of the security at the Companies Registration Office (CRO) in Dublin.
This involves submitting details of the security to the CRO using the required CRO form (the Form C1) within 21 days of creation. Failure to register will result in the security being void against a liquidator or other creditors in the event of winding-up of the Irish Obligor.
Additional filings and notifications may also be required depending on the asset class e.g. with the relevant IP registration offices in respect of registered IP, the Property Registration Authority in relation to real estate assets and the International Registry of Mobile Assets in relation to aircraft.
7. Are there restrictions on an Irish Obligor in relation to choice of law in respect of loan/guarantee/security documentation?
In general there are no restrictions under Irish law in relation to an Irish Obligor entering into non-Irish law loan/guarantee/security documentation.
In relation to security, Irish law has mandatory application in relation to creating security over certain assets. For instance, security over Irish real estate assets has to be subject to Irish law. Also, if security is to be taken over the shares in an Irish incorporated company or over Irish registered IP assets, then Irish law security is appropriate.
If the Irish Obligor holds assets located in a jurisdiction other than Ireland then it will probably be necessary to take additional local law advice in relation to security over such assets.
8. Are there any unusual execution formalities in Ireland?
Ireland is a common-law jurisdiction and while oral contracts are generally possible, contracts are usually in writing. Certain agreements such as guarantees and contracts relating to real estate assets have to be in writing.
For an Irish Obligor it is usual for a loan agreement to be signed by one director or other authorised signatory only.
Security documents are usually created as deeds. Rules applying to the execution of deeds are provided for in the Articles of the Association of the Irish Obligor, the Irish Companies Acts and Irish property law.
An Irish Obligor may choose to grant a power of attorney to permit a nominated attorney to execute loan/guarantee/security documentation on its behalf, in Ireland or outside of Ireland.
There is no requirement for loan/guarantee/security documentation executed by Irish Obligors to be notarised to be validly enforceable in Ireland. Notarisation or other verification of execution may be required where documentation is executed by an Irish Obligor and is intended to be submitted to governmental agencies outside of Ireland.
The Hague Convention (1961) Abolishing the Requirement for Legalisation of Foreign Documents applies in Ireland.
There are no translation requirements in Ireland.
9. Can an Irish Obligor which is the parent company of foreign subsidiaries create standalone security over the shares which it holds in those subsidiaries?
Yes – an Irish Obligor company can generally create standalone security over a specific cash deposit/bank account held with a local Irish financial institution.
Usual provisions include a covenant to maintain the bank account, not to withdraw any monies from the bank account and to serve all required notices.
The security can be fixed or floating, depending on the level of restriction applied to the account. The greater the level of restriction the more likely the account will be fixed in nature.
The security is usually notified to the financial institution where the account is held. This is done by sending a notice signed by the Irish Obligor to the financial institution. Service of the notice is a perfection step but, if it is not done, the security will not be invalidated.
The financial institution is also asked to sign and return an acknowledgement to the Lender to signify its agreement to comply with the terms of the security. Generally the Irish Obligor as a customer of the financial institution will liaise with the financial institution to ensure it completes the acknowledgement.
10. Can an Irish Obligor create standalone security over its IP and are there any special registration (or other, IP-specific) issues about which we should be aware?
Yes – an Irish Obligor company can generally create standalone security over its IP. It is recommended that a security interest is recorded against registered IP in Ireland and overseas. Adverse consequences can arise from non-recordal.
In Ireland, the Patents Office deals with the recordal of security over registered IP. For high tech Irish companies it is likely that IP will also be registered overseas. The main IP rights in Ireland are:
Patents: Patents may be registered at the Irish Patents Office. Security over registered patents can also be registered at the Irish Patents Office and should also be registered at the CRO.
Trade Marks: Trade Marks may also be registered at the Irish Patents Office. Security over registered trademarks can also be registered at the Irish Patents Office and should also be registered at the CRO.
EU-wide trade marks can be registered with the European Trade Marks Office (OHIM).
Copyright: is not capable of registration in an Irish registry. Specific copyright material can be identified in the security document. Details can be specifically included in the CRO filing when registering at the CRO. Other countries operate copyright registers and it may be possible to record the security over such foreign registrations.
Industrial Designs: These are also registered at the Irish Patents Office. In addition, an interest or proprietary rights in the design – such as an interest as a mortgagee, can be registered at the Designs Register and should also be registered at the CRO. Failure to record a title or interest means that the document purporting to show the title or interest will not be admitted in court unless the court otherwise directs.
11. Are there tax benefits of holding IP in Ireland?
Ireland has maintained its position as a location of choice for IP and R&D activities with continued investment by multinationals in innovation centres nationwide. The interaction of Ireland’s new tax regime in respect of IP, the R&D tax credit and low corporation tax rate gives rise to significant opportunities for companies with mobile investment projects wishing to maximise value from their investment.
In addition to the 12.5% rate of corporation tax on trading income such as license fees and royalties arising to an Irish company from the active management of IP rights, the Irish tax regime also offers the following benefits to companies involved in the management of IP:
- Tax deduction for capital cost of acquiring IP.
- Extensive and expanding double taxation treaty network limiting foreign withholding tax leakage on dividend, interest and royalty payments to Ireland.
- Limited Irish withholding tax on royalty payments from Ireland.
- Exemption from Irish stamp duty on the sale or transfer of IP.
- R&D tax credit of 25% of qualifying R&D expenditure.
12. Does withholding tax apply to payment by Irish Obligors to Lenders?
Generally, Irish withholding tax arises at a current rate of 20% on payments of Irish source yearly interest made by corporates.
This general requirement is subject to a number of exceptions.
Each transaction should be reviewed and assessed on its merits having regard to the nature of the payment, the paying entity, the recipient and the recipient’s tax residence.
13. Are there any documentary taxes or stamp duties on loan/guarantee/security documentation?
There are no documentary taxes or stamp duties or loan/guarantee/security documentation in Ireland.
14. Is a certificate of tax residency available from relevant tax authorities in Ireland?
A Certificate of Tax Residency may be available upon application to the Revenue Commissioners (www.revenue.ie).
15. Is a certificate of good standing available in Ireland?
Irish law does not have the concept of a ‘certificate of good standing’.
The closest equivalent is a Letter of Status which is available upon application to the Companies Registration Office (www.cro.ie).
Generally, where a legal opinion is being provided in relation to the Irish Obligor, the Irish law firm will provide confirmation as to incorporation and continued existence of the Irish Obligor.
To learn more, please download the full PDF brochure here.
 This document contains a general summary of issues relevant to lending to or taking security from Irish companies as of August 2013 in the context of secured lending into SME sector. It is not a complete or comprehensive statement of all relevant laws or tax provisions. Specific legal and tax advice should be obtained where appropriate.Exceptions include lending products such as letters of credit constituted regulated product.  The concept of group is derived from section 155 of the Companies Act 1963 (Ireland). Connected person has a statutory meaning under section 31 of the Companies Acts 1990 (Ireland). The financial assistance prohibition is found at section 60 of Companies Acts 1963 (Ireland).